Intel is taking a slow and steady approach to quantum computing. Competitors like Google may be racing to achieve so-called quantum supremacy, in which a quantum computer outperforms an ordinary one. But Intel's James Clarke has bigger ideas. He leads the firm's quantum computing research team, and says it is looking past near-term goals in order to be the first to make a device with a million qubits, or quantum bits – enough to have a real impact on the world.
Predicting the dynamics of many-body quantum systems is a formidable computational task, in which quantum computers could come to the aid of classical ones. However, the corrections needed to keep errors in check as a quantum computer works require enormous quantum resources. Li and Benjamin propose a hybrid quantum-classical computer based on variational principles. In the proposed system, the classical computer does most of the work and "outsources" to its quantum partner only very specific tasks. This reduces the number of operations that the quantum partner needs to do, allowing it to be less than perfect; the system can efficiently compensate for the quantum partner's errors.
Maybe quantum computing is a job for artificial intelligence. To call quantum computing complicated is a gross understatement. Rather than any single complex challenge, quantum computing is a series of obstacles all superimposed (pun intended) onto each other. Even though quantum processors based on superconducting circuits already exist in labs today, they don't compare in speed or processing power to today's typical desktop, laptop, and tablet computers. Even if you can settle on materials, a physical architecture, and a form factor for your quantum device, you're still faced with the very real difficulties of actually measuring quantum signals so you can take advantage of the processing and storage enhancements offered by quantum computing.
IBM has unveiled its first commercial quantum computer at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Named the IBM Q System One (the Q), the 20-quantum bits, or qubits device is the first quantum system built specifically for business use. IBM touts the Q as the "world's first fully integrated universal quantum computing system." This is "a major step forward in the commercialization of quantum computing," Arvind Krishna, IBM's senior VP of hybrid cloud and director of research, said in a statement. The "new system is critical in expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab as we work to develop practical quantum applications for business and science."
Google has big plans for quantum computing. The company has come up with a strategy for demonstrating quantum supremacy, the claim that quantum computers can perform tasks that no current computers can. While it's widely assumed that we will eventually reach quantum supremacy, nobody has done it yet because current quantum computers can only run a small number of specialised algorithms. Their plan is based on simulating coin flips. An ordinary computer does this by storing two numbers and choosing one of them at random each time.